My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Ask Your Question

WebMD Answers

120 Characters remaining
120 Characters remaining
  • First, try and keep your question as short as possible.
  • Include specific words that will help us identify questions that may already have your answer.
  • If you don't find your answer, you can post your question to WebMD Experts and Contributors.

Close

Posted: | Report This Report Question |
Q.
 

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

5,093 Answers
193,359 Helpful Votes
160 Followers
A.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart's function as a pump is inadequate to deliver oxygen rich blood to the body. Congestive heart failure can be caused by:

  1. diseases that weaken the heart muscle
  2. diseases that cause stiffening of the heart muscles
  3. diseases that increase oxygen demand by the body tissue beyond the capability of the heart to deliver adequate oxygen-rich blood

The heart has two atria (right atrium and left atrium) that make up the upper chambers of the heart, and two ventricles (left ventricle and right ventricle) that make up the lower chambers of the heart. The ventricles are muscular chambers that pump blood when the muscles contract. The contraction of the ventricle muscles is called systole.

Many diseases can impair the pumping action of the ventricles. For example, the muscles of the ventricles can be weakened by heart attacks or infections (myocarditis). The diminished pumping ability of the ventricles due to muscle weakening is called systolic dysfunction. After each ventricular contraction (systole) the ventricle muscles need to relax to allow blood from the atria to fill the ventricles. This relaxation of the ventricles is called diastole.

Diseases such as hemochromatosis (iron overload) or amyloidosis can cause stiffening of the heart muscle and impair the ventricles' capacity to relax and fill; this is referred to as diastolic dysfunction. The most common cause of this is longstanding high blood pressure resulting in a thickened (hypertrophied) heart. Additionally, in some patients, although the pumping action and filling capacity of the heart may be normal, abnormally high oxygen demand by the body's tissues (for example, with hyperthyroidism or anemia) may make it difficult for the heart to supply an adequate blood flow (called high output heart failure).

In some individuals one or more of these factors can be present to cause congestive heart failure. The remainder of this article will focus primarily on congestive heart failure that is due to heart muscle weakness, systolic dysfunction.

Congestive heart failure can affect many organs of the body. For example:

  • The weakened heart muscles may not be able to supply enough blood to the kidneys, which then begin to lose their normal ability to excrete salt (sodium) and water. This diminished kidney function can cause the body to retain more fluid.
  • The lungs may become congested with fluid (pulmonary edema) and the person's ability to exercise is decreased.
  • Fluid may likewise accumulate in the liver, thereby impairing its ability to rid the body of toxins and produce essential proteins.
  • The intestines may become less efficient in absorbing nutrients and medicines.
  • Fluid also may accumulate in the extremities, resulting in edema (swelling) of the ankles and feet.

Eventually, untreated, worsening congestive heart failure will affect virtually every organ in the body.

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

Posted:
| Report This Report Answer
Archived: March 20, 2014

Was this helpful?

YesNo

Thanks for your feedback.

4998 of 5131 found this helpful
Read the Original Article: Congestive Heart Failure

Answers from Contributors (3)

1 Answer
669 Helpful Votes
A.
My father died from what I believe was undiagnosed CHF. Two weeks prior to his passing, he had gone to the doctor with shortness of breath and fatigue.  Tests were run,  but not a stress test.  That was 1988.  We've come a long way.  My father's death left me with this lingering question about heart failure, What is it?  Symptoms, causes etc.  I finally wrote my own article as a way of learning.  Here is an excerpt from the intro:

"The primary function of the heart is to pump oxygen rich blood out to the body and to return oxygen depleted blood to the lungs to be replenished. When it fails at this task, serious consequences develop. Blood backs up in the venous system, pressure in this normally low pressure system rises and fluid from from the blood collects in the body’s tissues."  For the rest of the article-  http://hub.me/aeCN7 cut and paste to browser if not highlighted.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the User.down arrowThe opinions expressed here are solely those of the User.
User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice. Please see the
bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

Posted:
| Report This Report Answer

Was this helpful?

YesNo

Thanks for your feedback.

669 of 710 found this helpful
 
 

Next Question: